Leslie Brooks (real name Lorraine Gettmann), was a Nebraskan, who got her start as a pin-up model, eventually being signed by MGM and then Warner Bros. Both studios primarily employed her as a model, occasionally giving her extra roles, while promoting her as having the best legs in Hollywood.
Once she signed with Columbia, however, Brooks got an acting break, playing a bad girl opposite Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944). Soon, she began playing femme fatales in a number of film noir B movies. However, her career collapsed in 1948. Apparently, her husband of three years, Donald Shay, took $8,000 and their daughter, Leslie, and disappeared, leaving her financially and emotionally devastated.
While the courts granted a divorce and issued a warrant for Shay’s arrest, L.A. detectives believed that he had fled to New Zealand with their daughter. He had instead gone to Australia.
Blonde Ice (1948). With Robert Paige.
While her life was unraveling, Brooks announced in 1948 that she would no longer play in B pictures, and that she was co-authoring scripts that would eventually star herself. After her announcement, she stopped appearing in films altogether until 1971.
During her absence, she had remarried and had three more children, so it appears as though she had devoted most of her life to being a wife and mother. She died in Sherman Oaks in 2011.
Leslie Brooks certainly had a bizarre career. Here is an excerpt from a published letter, detailing a “feud” between the Sunday Editor of the Omaha World Herald and Brooks in May of 1943. By this time, she was already well-known, especially among American servicemen.
Dear Leslie (Lorraine):
Won’t you please, pretty please, resume our mutually-profitable feud? Who in heck is your public relations representative that he’ll grant you (or advise you) to write such a nice girl letter…
Perhaps you have forgotten how the whole thing started. When you first hove on the Hollywood scene under your true name of Lorraine
Gettmann, not only had almost no one in Hollywood heard of you, but a rather diligent search on my part revealed no one who could remember you back here in the old home town of Omaha (except Oscar Lieben the costumer who recalled you as a mousy little thing waiting around during rehearsals of the WPA playhouse for your aunt, wardrobe mistress there).
That’s what got you mad at the Sunday editor of the World-Herald: I wrote — as I saw the truth — that you had made absolutely no impression on Omaha folks, even though those pretty legs seemed about to take you places in the film capital.
It was then that Carlisle Jones at Warner’s wrote Keith Wilson (our then movie critic, now rationing specialist) stating that you had the kindest regards for Keith, but that I, the Sunday Editor, had absolutely broken your heart, and that you were just a kid and you cried over my piece that they “never heard of” you….
But since that beginning, you’ve been around and I presume you’re not just a kid anymore. And should know the publicity value of even a foney [sic] feud. Just look what it got you. Just to be cantankerous, I have published 69 “leg shots” of you…I have considered this a magnanimous gesture on my part, in view of the fact you don’t like me, but something amply justified by two facts (a) you hail from the home town and (b) you are unquestionably the leg art queen of Hollywood, even eclipsing la Grable on those points.
So you want to call the whole thing off! Ok, let this page be the last. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Sunday Editor
Leslie Shay was my aunt. She passed away dec 31 2016. She did meet Leslie Brooks and her half sisters before her passing. Donald Shay was my grandfather and he actually moved them to Australia. 🙂
Wow! Thank you for finding me and for posting on this blog.
Did she ever find her daughter?
I’ve only really known Leslie from her supporting roles in quite a few Rita Hayworth vehicles, and then became very interested indeed when I heard about “Blonde Ice” being a cult b-movie classic of sorts. Having just watched it again recently, it prompted me to try and look up more of her films… I’m not having any luck whatsoever trying get a hold of her 1971 resurfacing of “How’s Your Love Life?” and was wondering if you had seen it or knew how to watch it?
Also, it’s been stated lots, but she really does look like Rose McGowan. An enigma and icon for sure.